Level Up


What if gaming was used to solve real world problems?

Jane McGonigal is a game designer that has been studying that very question for several years. She gave an intriguing TED talk on the subject. I must admit that I have not always been a fan of gaming, though I am a bit of a gamer myself. Ironic. But lately, I’ve been thinking about incorporating gaming as part of my instructional practice. Why? Because I’ve come to believe gaming can and is changing the world.

I can tell you don’t believe me. Check this out…

A team of scientists at the Center for Game Science at University of Washington, in collaboration with UW Department of Biochemistry, came up with this concept: what if the cure for AIDS or cancer or other horrible diseases was possible by better understanding the structures of proteins. “Since proteins are part of so many diseases, they can also be part of the cure.” They created a game in which players designed brand new proteins that could be used to treat and/or prevent diseases. Gamers decoded an AIDS protein in 3 weeks which had stumped scientists for 15 years! Amazing.

The USAF created The Air Force Collaboratory an online platform in which participants use customized tools to solve real world problems collaboratively.  The New York Times wrote a great piece on the subject. MIT is investigating the power of gaming as well. They developed Radix, an MMO (Massive Multiplay Online ) game aligned to Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core math standards. MIT is tapping into MMOs huge popularity and then embedding even more meaningful content into game play.  Science is already proving that gaming is in fact good for us. How can we make gaming even better?

Dr. Daphne Bavelier, a cognitive scientist, studies the effect of video games on our brains, specifically video games making our brains smarter, better, faster. She explains her research in a very intriguing TED talk which debunks a lot of the typical criticisms of videogames: it ruins your eyesight, it makes you slower, etc.

Still not convinced gaming has huge potential to help humanity? “EteRNA is one of a small stable of video games that enlist the collective intelligence of players—most with no scientific background—to solve fiendishly difficult scientific problems. ” What if gaming could help us solve some of the great mysteries of science? The Games for Science article on TheScientist talks about  applications of gaming in science.

So what practical applications does gaming have in the K-12 classroom?  How do we get parents, administrators, and colleagues to get past the negative views games and gaming have in an “educational setting”? And most importantly how do we tap into the “fun” aspects of gaming without losing meaningful content?

I am “just” a third grade teacher and I am searching for the answers above while maintaining fidelity to the programs and standards and benchmarks I’m expected to teach. I am remixing my teaching, redefining my philosophy, exploring possibilities. Gaming intrigues me and it makes me wonder how I can level up as an educator and stay relevant to my students.


B2SN or Back to School Night

I really want to make the focus of this blog about how I use technology to improve my teaching practice with all stakeholders in my learning and teaching community.

B2SN was a perfect opportunity to do just that with my parent community.  I revamped my presentation switching from PowerPoint to Keynote. I am really trying to embrace all things Apple since I work for an Apple school. I am hoping to create a screen cast of the Keynote in the next week or so for parents that missed B2SN or for families entering my class later in the year.

After B2SN I created a short tutorial for parents on Words Their Way to help them decipher our word study program. One parent was particularly baffled by word sorts and vowel/consonant words patterns.